The instruction came following growing concerns that Hizbullah may try to launch a retaliatory attack against Israel, which the group believes is responsible for the killing of its military leader Imad Mugniyah.
Danny Shenar, head of security at the Transportation Ministry, has ordered all foreign and local airlines landing in Israel to require from passengers to remain seated half-an-hour before landing, when flights approach a distance of 180 miles from the country's shores.
Until now, passengers have only been instructed to return to their seats at a distance of some 90 miles from Israel (15 minutes before landing).
Furthermore, airlines have also been asked to instruct their pilots to seal the cockpit 30 minutes before landing, so as not to allow terrorists to take control of the plane.
Extra time to raise the alarm
Transportation Ministry officials explained that the new decree has been issued in light of fears that terrorists might succeed in infiltrating a plane, and attempt to take control over the aircraft only in the final stage of the flight, after it has reached Israeli airspace.
A hijacking at this stage would make it difficult for security forces to respond in time to curb the attack.
"It takes several minutes to deploy fighter jets towards a hijacked plane," an aviation security expert explained. "Therefore, the final stage of the flight is extremely crucial."
The new procedure is aimed at providing the aircrew with an additional 15 minutes to notify air controllers on the ground about an emergency on board.